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Dar Al Ber Society: a charity built on tradition

DUBAI // The guiding ethos of the Dar Al Ber Society, one of the UAE’s oldest charitable organisations, was established many centuries before the first dirham was donated.

“Our people have always liked to help others, including the relatives of the foreigners who have visited here,” executive director Abdullah Ali bin Zayed said. “The people who started Dar Al Ber knew there were people out there asking for help.”

The charity was set up in 1978 in Dubai, which had always maintained a multicultural flavour because of its legacy as a major trading centre and an intersection for travellers between Asia and Africa.

Since then, the charity has maintained assistance to foreigners as part of its broad charity work.

The name Dar Al Ber is loosely defined as “house of charity” in Arabic, but more specifically, “anything that can be described as a good deed”, Mr bin Zayed said.

Work undertaken in earlier years included building mosques, digging wells, and helping orphans in the UAE and the broader region, taking its work worldwide. “In each country there are different needs,” said Mr bin Zayed. “Where agriculture is being practised, it might be that all they need is a cow or some tools. We can help.” Today, Dar Al Ber has a staff of 200 and operates in 32 countries, notably Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, India, Philippines, and Thailand.

In 2013, the charity disbursed more than Dh126 million in foreign aid, making it the fifth-largest external donor in country, according to the Ministry of International Co-operation and Development.

The charity is involved in building schools and hospitals, funding university scholarships, distributing the Quran (more than six million to date), and supporting 30,000 orphans, more than 1,000 of whom are in the UAE.

Last year, Dh111m was spent on digging more than 8,100 wells and building 1,800 mosques in a dozen countries.

Dar Al Ber coordinates with the Dubai Government’s Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department and approved foreign-based charities.

Since the beginning of this year, it has donated more than Dh2m to assist thousands of Syrian refugees affected by the nation’s civil war, helping families cope with a harsh winter by supplying blankets, winter clothes, fuel oil, firewood, food, sewing machines, and shelter.

They have also recently built and furnished a facility for orphans in the Bekaa area of Lebanon at a cost of Dh8m.

Dar Al Ber works with individual donors, as well as government organisations and corporations, including Dubai Police, the municipal government, Burjeel Hospital, Etisalat, Etihad and Microsoft.

“We will work wherever we can trust that our donors’ money will be put to good use. We are driven by their good deeds,” said Mr bin Zayed.

He said the charity has procedures that ensure donor aid reaches those in need.

By making budgets available to the public, they were recognised in 2011 by Forbes magazine as the top charitable organisation in the Arab world for transparency.

Although Dar Al Ber carries out high-profile projects at home and abroad, Mr bin Zayed said it is also the small deeds that make a difference in people’s lives.

“We want people to engage in charitable activities, whether they are lawyers, doctors, anyone,” he said. “We hope that all people will want to be a copy of Sheikh Zayed. He was a leader but also did so much to help people.”

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(via The National)